Nackeshia Tomlinson, Gleaner Writer
BALACLAVA, St Elizabeth:
EVERY TUESDAY at the Balaclava Baptist Church, a wonderful gathering is held. This fellowship is in the form of a sewing group of about 15 women from the church.
The group, consisting mainly of older women, exhibits a strong sense of camaraderie. They learn a variety of sewing techniques such as patchwork, embroidery, crochet, and needlepoint, which are used on a number of items including rugs, children's dresses, uniforms, and soft furnishings.
One participant, Sonia Clarke, told The Gleaner that the group started seven years ago as an initiative of the church's Education Committee.
"There were a lot of young persons in the church and the community who were not doing anything, and so we felt it was a good idea to try and get them to learn a skill," said Clarke.
With machines that were donated from a church in Canada, the programme started and morphed into a skill-sharing initiative in which persons in the group who were proficient in an area of sewing would teach the others.
VARIETY OF ITEMS
The ladies pool their time and talent, and from mainly contributed resources, they make rugs, girls' dresses, uniforms, soft furnishings, cushions, pantry towels, and drapes, just to name a few items.
Clarke said to date, they have managed to offer assistance to a number of persons. She disclosed that they have donated baby items to the local hospital and helped to defray back-to-school expenses for some individuals.
Clarke said the trainee is usually required to take her own material to the group, where she will be tutored in sewing the garment after the patterns have been cut by one of the women.
Clarke said the beneficiaries are not required to pay a fee and a few persons have learnt how to sew in that manner.
Another member of the group, Phyllis Senior, said at times, they have advertised the programme in the community and they accept persons who want to enhance their sewing abilities, even if they are not affiliated with the church.
Clarke told The Gleaner that they have a challenge procuring materials. She said that they are mainly supported by donations from outside persons, in addition to what some members are able to contribute. She said in most instances, they find creative ways of to utilise what they have.
Rose McLeish, another member, said they use whatever materials they can get. She contributes by picking up unique pieces whenever she travels. She said that as a group, they want to venture into using more material that reflects the culture of Jamaica. McLeish said for the recent Jamaica 50 celebrations, one group member made a few Jamaica-themed bags and all the women collaborated to make bandana outfits for members.
Occasionally, the women sell their work to persons who admire the pieces. They have even had the opportunity to display and sell some pieces at the Denbigh Agricultural Show through the assistance of the local Rural Agriculture Development Authority officer.
At the moment, there is limited commercialisation, but McLeish noted: "We don't have the machines. It is just our domestic materials that we have."